A good Good Friday

Last night was my big Bach concert! My choir and a fantastic Baroque orchestra performed the St. John Passion. As a first-timer, I had to put in a lot of practice to make sure I had my head around all the rhythms and my tongue around all the rapid-fire German. And it really paid off - on the night I wasn't nervous, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Willie, Julian, Chloe, and Hamish came along to hear us,and Willie took a couple of photos:

The Scots' Church is really pretty.

A chorus in full flight! I'm near the middle. :)

At home afterwards, enjoying a well-earned hot cross bun.

Here are a couple of my favourite choruses, performed by The Monteverdi Choir. The first is one of the fast, tricky choruses, and the second is the final chorus (which I adore)...

If you're a Bach nerd like me, you might want to poke around the All of Bach site, which will eventually house free videos of all 1080 of Bach's surviving compositions, performed by the Netherlands Bach Society. Bach's other great Passion setting, the St. Matthew, is the newest addition.

Happy Easter, everyone!


Our Messiah performance on Saturday was a success, and heaps of fun if a bit nerve-wracking at times! Willie came along to listen, with Chloe and Celena and two friends. They brought me a bunch of flowers, which was lovely - one's first Messiah is a big deal, after all. ;)

A lot of the choruses rattled along at a cracking pace, which is exhilarating but also scary if you're not totally confident with your part. The period-instrument orchestra was excellent, and added a lot of sparkle and depth to the music. 
I loved Chloe's comment that the choir sounded "tight" - coming from a rock musician, that's a great compliment.

Here's one of my favourite choruses, the final "Worthy is the Lamb" and "Amen". These guys take it slower than we did, but it still sounds fantastic...

I'm nearly ready for Christmas! Jam Drops, Salted Toffee Almonds, and the all-important Pavlova have been baked. My mini-solo for Christmas morning choir has been practised (a verse of a carol called "Past three o'clock"). Tonight we'll wrap presents and put up a few decorations. And tomorrow afternoon, we'll go to Chloe and Celena's house for an "Orphan Christmas" featuring a vast vegetarian feast, cocktails, a performance by Booty Pageant, and a Slip 'n' Slide. ;)

Merry Christmas all!

A night at the opera

Last night Willie and I, Matt, and Chloe went out to Madama Butterfly at the State Theatre! Puccini isn't my usual musical fare to say the least, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great spectacle, and the singing was fantastic, especially Hiromi Omura who played Butterfly. The set was simple, with some touches that made it magical: pools of water, glittering stars, and drifting cherry blossoms. I was grateful for the surtitles translating the Italian, as I wasn't familiar with the story beyond the basic naive-Japanese-heroine-meets-caddish-American-villain outline.

I've been to a couple of operas before: The Marriage of Figaro a year or two ago in Wellington, and L'Orfeo more recently. It's a great excuse to dress up and be fancy - a lovely escapist way to spend an evening. It was fun to introduce our newbie guests to the bizarre and sublime world of opera!

The teaser trailer:

Hiromi Omura in the same role, in a past production:

We had really good seats, thanks to a competition Opera Australia is running. The idea is to make an origami butterfly, and take a photo of it in a public place. I took my slightly dodgy butterfly along on one of my raiding-trips to the State Library music-scores room. ;)

A butterfly on a butterfly

Melbourne for beginners

Well, I'm finally here! Yesterday was my first full day in Melbourne.

In the morning, Willie and I headed out to brunch with a friend at a fantastic place in Hardware St, which was well worth the wait for a table. I had a pot of French Earl Grey tea, and some delicious baked eggs with asparagus. I managed to drip pistou down my front, but luckily I had my trusty Bright Side scarf to cover up the evidence. ;)

By the time we got back to our apartment we were both severely in need of a nap, especially as I never sleep well in a new bed, and my day of travelling on Saturday was pretty draining. When we woke up, there was just enough time to get dressed up, grab a bite to eat, and scramble to get to the Arts Centre for the performance of L'Orfeo. We just made it (hurrah)!

It was amazing to hear this live! The instruments in particular sounded fantastic, in various colourful combinations of violins, viols, lirone, recorders, cornetti, sackbutts, harpsichords, organ, regal, theorbos, Baroque guitars, and percussion.

After the opera, we walked home and again collapsed with exhaustion.
I expect I'll start to feel more like myself in a few days, but until then I'll have to try to take it easy...

Monday night Monteverdi

Last night I went to a Baroque Voices concert, and had a lovely Monteverdi overdose! "The Full Monte: Concert 3" was full of madrigals for different configurations of up to five voices, some accompanied by bass viol plus theorbo or chitarrino. A theorbo, by the way, is a kind of long-necked lute (I think they look really cool with their outrigger strings - see below!), and a chitarrino is a kind of small guitar (I think that's one in the painting below).

Theorbo player, c.1615

The music for this concert was mainly from Monteverdi's third book of madrigals (1592), with some added highlights from the seventh book (1619). Baroque Voices is performing all nine books over the course of their "Full Monte" series - quite an undertaking! To give you an idea of the style of music, here's a video of some of the same singers doing a piece from the second book of madrigals (from their last concert, in April):

And one with instruments accompanying:

The concert was directed by soprano Pepe Becker, who conducted the group occasionally as necessary. The texts of the madrigals are your standard Baroque fare: love-lorn shepherds and shepherdesses, lovers and fair ladies, heroic knights and wicked sorceresses. A neat addition to the concert was the declamation (in impassioned Italian) of some of the texts by David Groves, who had translated them for the programme.

The venue was Wellington's Sacred Heart Cathedral - a slightly odd choice for a secular-themed concert. The interior is a neo-classical pink-and-white confection that always makes me think of meringues or ice-cream cakes!

Sacred Heart Cathedral, in all its pink-and-white glory

One of the most enjoyable aspects (for me) was that lots of the music was unfamiliar. This is the beauty of an unabridged concert series - you don't just hear the same few most-popular works, you get surprises too! Only one of the pieces was one I'd sung before: Ahi, sciocco mondo cieco, a soprano duet which Theresa and I sang for a choir party item once upon a time. Monteverdi is so much fun to sing! I miss my duet buddies, I do...